Tag Archives: writing tools

Sunday Writing Tip: Make Sure Your Scene Endings Hook Your Readers

Each week, I’ll offer a tip you can take and apply to your WIP to help improve it. They’ll be easy to do and shouldn’t take long, so they’ll be tips you can do without taking up your Sunday. Though I do reserve the right to offer a good tip now and then that will take longer—but only because it would apply to the entire manuscript.

This week, check how you end each scene and/or chapter and make sure you’re giving readers a reason to turn the page.

A scene break or chapter ending is a natural place for readers to put down a book, and sometimes we write it that way without considering the downsides. Characters go to sleep, they leave for a journey, they settle in to wait—they at in ways that say “pause the story here” in some way.

But when we end a scene with something that must be known—readers keep on reading. Readers who can’t put a book down even when the scene is over or the chapter has ended are ones who are going to rave about your book the next day (while yawning from lack of sleep).

Look at the ending of your scenes and chapters. Do they end with something to keep readers reading? Not just the last line, but the situation or need int he novel itself? Is there something going on readers want to see? Need to know? Must read the outcome for?

If not, tweak, trim, or shift so the break happens in a spot readers won’t be able to stop on.

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Source: blog.janicehardy.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

 

WITS Throwdown: Putting the “Social” in Social Media

The real title of this post is How To Put the Social in Social Media Without Losing Your Mind or All Your Free Time.

That’s a heavy promise, right? Social media does like to suck up valuable family time, writing time, down time. If you think about it as a big vaccuum that gives nothing back, you WILL be resistant to this whole “online social thing.”

This post is about how pick your online locations carefully and develop habits that help fit social media into the life you actually have. It’s about how to make connections during the time you choose to spend online. And of course, I share what I do to keep my love alive.

We’ve had two posts in this throwdown already. One from Fae, who pretty much detests it. One from Julie, who has found the one place in social media that doesn’t give her hives makes her happy.

Those two are introverts, whereas Laura and I are extroverts. All four of us have different stances on this topic. Even on the extrovert side, Laura is retired and I work more than full time.

Translation: I have two part-time day jobs that sometimes expand to three, plus writing, plus volunteering, plus an eight year-old. (Plus a very understanding husband.) Many things in life are more important than my writing and I’ve had to learn to be okay with that.

It was hard to let go of perfection and my yen to Fast Draft, but there are rewards from my overburdened schedule. A big one is my time-saving social media habits, which I will detail at the bottom of this post.

Important Note (like super-duper important): Taking the “social” out of social media defeats the entire purpose. You will resent all that wasted time. (At least I would.)

If you’ve hung out at WITS for a while, you’ve heard me wax rhapsodic about social media before. Below are several of my posts that will give you all the how-to and “what the heck is it” info you might want.

The above links are pretty big picture but there are also specifics to be had:

We’ve also had stellar tips for not getting overwhelmed on social media from veterans like Roni Loren who gave this sage advice: Only focus on the things that sizzle your bacon. Also, Colleen Story shared 7 Ways to Keep Social Media from Ruining your Mood.

And then there is little ol’ former technology-trainer me. I have a confession that won’t surprise you… I freaking love software and apps.

Love. Them.

I love the time-saving tools (although it’s super hard to beat my own kitchen timer for time management). I love the way technology connects people. I love the way Excel’s pivot tables summarize thousands of records into a table the size of your hand.

Technology is just cool.

However, time is in short supply and I’ve had to shoehorn social media into the schedule. Remember that promise from up top: How To Put the Social in Social Media Without Losing Your Mind or All Your Free Time ?

Here are my Top 5 “fit it in no matter what” social media tips:

1. The biggest trick I have is using the “in-between” time. In the long check-out line, or waiting in the doctor’s office. Waiting in the car line to pick up my kid. While I eat lunch. Just before I go to bed. While my kid reads to me (with my phone hidden from her view so she isn’t aware she only has half of my attention).

All those in-between moments add up. You’ll at least get 30 minutes a day. You can do a lot with 30 minutes! Plus, you’ve turned those boring “waiting” moments into something that is a reward (at least for me). Boorah.

2. Planning is everything. Some of your time will just be spent scrolling, liking, commenting. But a smart author plans out the week or the month, so the important updates get out now mantter how busy you are.

You can do a ton of graphics in less than an hour each week if you use Canva. Laura Drake explains how to own Canva.

3. Decide who your audience is and focus your time in their neck of the online world.

I love what this article at Contently has to say – it’s a few years old but it’s still pretty accurate.

Let’s talk strategy. You have limited time, maybe limited content, and there is a very specific audience you want to reach. Here’s a quick, non-scientific breakdown of who uses which network:

  • Teenagers gravitate towards Snapchat, YouTube, Tumblr, and Instagram.
  • Soon-to-be-wives and soon-to-be-moms are all about Pinterest.
  • Young parents and grandparents alike can be found on Facebook.
  • Business types and leaders rule LinkedIn.
  • Influencers and bloggers love Twitter, WordPress and Tumblr.

Here’s an infographic with my thoughts on the main social media apps out there. (Yes, I totally think Facebook is a huge time suck.)

Made in Canva…in about 8 minutes.

4. Set up Google alerts. You want the content you are passionate about to come to you so you don’t have to spend time chasing it down. No one has time for that. Google Alerts email the info right to you.

To set up one (or ten) of these handy alerts:

  • Go to google.com/alerts in your browser.
  • Enter a search term for the topic you want to track. As you enter your terms, view a preview of the results below.
  • Choose “Show Options” to narrow the alert to a specific source, language, and/or region. Specify how often, how many, and how to receive alerts.
  • Select “Create Alert.”

5. Don’t be afraid to schedule. Especially during busy weeks, when I don’t have time to both post AND monitor, scheduling tools let me “have it all.” I go back and forth over whether I like HootSuite or Buffer better, but here is an article that compares them both. I also used Social Oomph for a while.

Overall, I’m super happy with social media. I don’t use all the tools I’d like to use, and I always feel like I’m swimming up stream in terms of time, but notifications and alerts allow me to at least keep up with the people who are interacting directly with me. I count that as a win.

More than anything, your time online needs to be fun and productive. Find your tribe and enjoy them. If your time online is fun, you’re less likely to resent it or view it as wasted.

Now it’s your turn! Introvert or extrovert? Social media lover or hater? And what are the tricks that have allowed you to fit it into your busy schedule?

 

By Jenny Hansen

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How Writing and Submitting Short Stories Improved My Novel

If you’re writing a novel and are nowhere near the end, why spend time on short stories? Doesn’t that distraction delay getting to the end of the current draft, a moment that always feels months away? I thought so once. One year, I wouldn’t let myself touch any other project until I’d worked on my novel every day. This lasted five months until I revisited “The End.” Again.

Why should a novel writer devote precious writing time to short stories? After five novel drafts, two years of submitting shorter fiction, and seven publications, here are my reasons.

Do Something With All Those Ideas

Not every idea deserves a novel. And there’s something cathartic about expressing an idea soon after inspiration strikes. I’m not holding my breath and suffocating the idea because I have to focus elsewhere. As powerful as some ideas feel in the moment, most are quite happy as short stories or flash fiction or poems, or being expressed at all. I now tend to start each idea in the shortest possible form. I only expand the word count if my gut and reader feedback suggest there’s more to say. In the meantime, I grow my list of stories and drafts, not only my list of ideas.

Understand the Impact of Every Edit

An effective edit rarely moves me in the same way as what inspired the story. Revising a longer work can be a dreary process because it’s difficult to grasp the impact of my efforts. This is not the case with flash fiction. Try changing a word in a 100-word story, swap sentences in 250 words, or drop a paragraph among only 1,000 words. You’ll notice an immediate impact on the entire piece. This inspires me toward better revisions by reminding me how powerful each change can be.

Feel A Sense of Completion More Often

Novel drafts take months or years to write. Short story drafts can take weeks. Flash fiction, anything under 1,000 words, can be even briefer. I’m not saying shorter work is easier to write, or requires any less thoughtful revision. But the satisfaction of reaching the end of a draft will happen sooner with shorter fiction. This can prevent listlessness after always having the same answer for “what are you working on?”

Practice Finding Comps

I read every market to which I submit. If I want a literary journal to publish my story, I not only follow their submission guidelines, but I prove I’ve engaged with what they’ve published. I do so by including the stories I read and liked in my cover letter to the editor. If they overlap with my subject matter or appeal to a similar audience, all the better.

In practice, this is akin to finding comparative titles, or comps, for a novel and citing them in your query letter. Prove that you’re thoughtful and have an understanding of the market.

Strengthen Your Query Letters

Every market where I’ve submitted short fiction requires a cover letter. Writing cover letters has taught me how to address editors, present myself, discuss my work, and highlight my accomplishments. This builds confidence in writing and revising query letters to literary agents. Growing my publication history also strengthens my credibility for the next stage of my writing journey.

Give More Than One Story A Chance

I no longer believe I have to withhold myself from other creative work to finish an ambitious project like a novel draft. Novels do take intense focus and persistence, but the reasons above led me to a new strategy.

I’m currently working on a novel during the weekdays and shorter projects on the weekend. This means that by default, the hardest thing gets the bulk of my time. Sometimes, my weekends are writing-free and the stories have to wait, but I’m always making progress.

Though my novel may take a while before it’s ready, all those shorter pieces are out there, being submitted, rejected, accepted, and in any case, read. Don’t withhold your words from the world because your magnum opus isn’t ready.

What’s been your experience juggling short and long projects?
Do you avoid multiple ongoing things at all cost?
How has one form of writing informed another?

 

Source: writerunboxed.com

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4 Ways to Make Your Writing Easier

 

Why Do We Say that Writing is Hard?

 

I don’t think writing is hard – wooden tables are, gemstones are, and sometimes my head is, but writing? No.

It’s as simple and complex as having an idea, putting words together, adding the thoughts or feelings, linking to the research, and using keywords for SEO.

 

4 Ways to Make Your Writing Easier Two Drops of Ink Marilyn L. Davis

 

1. The Idea is the Starting Point

 

If you’re writing a blog about a particular subject, you’ve always got an idea. Can you present it from a different perspective? Are you an expert on the topic? Do you have credibility when it comes to that subject? If you’ve answered, “Yes”, then maybe you’re just bored with the idea.

That happens. How many times can I write, “Recovery works” to try and encourage someone struggling with their addictions? So far, I’ve filled a lot of pages on my other blog with exactly that same message.

In all fairness, not more than 5% of the posts literally include the words, “Recovery works”, but in each of these 185 posts, that’s the underlying message or idea.

Yet, each post is presented from a different viewpoint, or for some, it’s because I wrote from the perspective of depth rather than breadth.

Breadth and depth each had distinct advantages. With breadth, I can write an overview of the idea. With depth, I’ll isolate one key element after a general statement of intent and elaborate on that aspect.

 

2. What are the Thoughts and Feelings about the Idea?

 

Much of that writing entails describing thoughts and feelings; it’s personal to me, but judging from the comments, my experiences with the topic are commonplace.  So the idea of addiction and recovery have an already established audience. Now, it’s my job to take the idea and make it fresh and new.

One of the easiest ways to get readers interested is to ask questions. So far, I’ve asked four and will ask more before I’m finished. Why? Because I know that what I think, feel, or know is limited to my experiences and there are other people out there who can supply additional information that I might find useful.

So now that boring, “Been there, done that” idea is open to others, and sometimes the What’s In It For Me principle factors here – the readers get to let me know how much they know about the topic.  I don’t know how many other posts a reader’s comments have generated, but a fair number.

Beyond my interest and a reader’s interest, there’s always room for research.

 

3. What Are Valuable and  Interesting Research Links?

 

4 Ways to Make Your Writing Easier Two Drops of Ink Marilyn L. Davis

For some of us, the idea of research sounds like the library desk with musty, dusty tomes all opened to various pages, sticky notes protruding from them, and 3 x 5 cards littering the table.

Not today. Research is a key element in any post. Why? Because it validates your argument, presents reliable information by experts on the topic, references a quote that summarizes your topic, or lends credibility to your idea.

But too many people get careless in their links – the old Wikipedia will have something about it. Delve deeper than that. If you’re going to use Wikipedia, research the references and see where that leads. I’ve used the referenced sources before and been pleased with the linked information.

Links within also lend authority to any post.  They can be external or internal. If you write on a collaborative site, like Two Drops of Ink, then see what your co-writers have to say about the topic.  You’ve added a valuable link and given them some additional exposure for their writing.

I know that two of our monthly contributors, Noelle Sterne and Peter B. Giblett will always give links that let me know more about their chosen topics. I’ve yet to find a link in any of their posts that didn’t add value.

All of these links help with your SEO as well. And while we may not always understand the algorithms that Google uses, SEO is always a factor in getting your post noticed. Click To Tweet

 

4. Can You See Me Now?

 

4 Ways to Make Your Writing Easier Two Drops of Ink Marilyn L. Davis

 

How many of you have searched for yourself or your blog? Confession, I have. And if I’m simply looking at Marilyn L. Davis, boy do I rate. However, that’s not really how most people know me. It’s the same for your blog or business. You may find yourself, but is that how the average person is looking for your site or posts? Probably not.  Granted, some names are forever embedded in our brains. Think of all the major brands.

But since most of us aren’t a major brand, how do you get your name or blog to rank on the first page of Google? Eric Enge, general manager of Perficient Digital simplifies the problem.

“Google algorithm updates in 2018 revealed that Google is intensifying its focus on evaluating the content quality and at the depth and breadth of a website’s content, said Eric Enge, general manager of Perficient Digital.

“We tracked the SEO performance of a number of different sites,” Enge said. “The sites that provided exceptional depth in quality content coverage literally soared in rankings throughout the year. Sites that were weaker in their content depth suffered in comparison.”

It’s critical to understand your readers wants and needs, and to write posts that satisfy them. Jesse McDonald, SEO specialist and director of operations for Fully Integrated Enterprise SEO Agency – TopHatRank.com. states, “It will be more critical than ever for SEOs and content specialists to focus heavily on the user intent of the keywords they are targeting while creating content,” McDonald said.

But how do you attract new readers? By understanding how people use Google, Bing, Quora, or other search engines.

Expanding on the Keywords

A big trend now is the Keto diet. Google that and you get inundated with hits. So that’s a safe keyword. But a better site will include Keto:

  1. Recipes
  2. Hidden pitfalls (of Keto)
  3. Foods allowed  (on Keto)
  4. Foods to avoid (on Keto)
  5. The science (of the Keto diet)
  6. Lose weight (with Keto)
  7. … and more.

In the WordPress editor, you can add categories and tags. So for the above, I’d add all the other aspects and probably attract readers who wanted more in-depth information, not just Keto diet.

Yoast Plug-in is a Second Set of Eyes

Yoast is a plug-in for a WordPress site. It also has an editor that gives you insight or frequently used words in your post. This also helps you determine keywords and where to strategically place them:

  • In the title – near the beginning
  • Throughout the post
  • Only where relevant

Check all the features of Yoast before you publish. There’s a lot of tips, edits, and suggestions that help improve your writing, as well as giving you a list of internal links from your site that would add value to the post.

And it’s always nice to get the little green dots – means something is right.

Will They Understand This Post? 

 

4 Ways to Make Your Writing Easier Two Drops of Ink Marilyn L. Davis

Besides the SEO, Yoast will give you a readability score. This number is based on:

  1. Flesch Reading Ease
  2. Passive Voice
  3. Consecutive Sentences
  4. Subheading Distribution
  5. Paragraph Lengths
  6. Sentence Length

And don’t forget that images offer you one more place to add keywords in the ALT text. Since search engines can’t see an image, these words act as a point of references for the search engines.

For instance, all the images for this post include the name of the post, Two Drops of Ink, and my name.  As an aside, I remember looking for an addiction image on Google, and up popped one for From Addict 2 Advocate. That reinforced the message that images are advertising in the background. Use them.

With just these four tips, you can make your writing relevant to your readers, add additional perspectives, find valuable links, and get Google’s attention.

Simplify, share your perspectives, do your research, and give your readers value in your posts.

See, it’s not hard at all.

 

By Marilyn L. Davis
Source: twodropsofink.com

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19 inspirational words to define 2019

At the beginning of this year, we asked you to think of just ONE word to define or sum up your year ahead. No wrong answers – simply one word that captured what you wanted to achieve or tapped into something that spoke to you.

Well, turns out it was a popular task! HUNDREDS of replies flooded in – thank you so much, we read them all and feel motivated for you. While we cannot share absolutely all of them, we thought we’d pull out some of the most popular words chosen, along with a few other favourites that stood out. We hope they motivate and inspire YOUR year ahead.

FOCUS
This was one of the most popular words that we received. Among the responses, Margaret C wanted to live 2019 “in a focused way so as to own my life and enjoy the moment’s pleasures”, while Tara D was far more blunt in her reasoning: “I have chosen this word to avoid prevarication, which is the greatest enemy.”

SUCCESS
Another top-rating word, and for all the obvious reasons. After all, we all want a taste of success from time to time, so devoting an entire year to it seems like a great idea! Jenny K admitted that “I have avoided things sometimes because I have been scared of success” but she’s looking to turn that around in 2019. Meanwhile, Tiffany J was adamant: “The goal posts may move throughout the course of the year, but no matter how far or wide they move, I will be successful in all that I do, in every part of my life.” And finally Timothy L had a specific wish: “This year I want to win at least one of your 500 word story competitions.”

DO
Sam A likes it because it’s “a short, powerful word”. Kevin B also has hopes for this simple word: “Without the weight of any huge specific expectations, it will hopefully get my backside into some sort of forward gear on a regular basis.” And finally Natasha D is “determined to stop dreaming and start doing things that I know will make me happier. DO more writing, DO more courses to help me write, DO enter my writing in competitions – I won’t know what I’m capable of until I DO something about it. Two letters but endless possibilities.”

PUBLISH
A clear goal for many of our community and a popular choice this year. Barbara P had this to say about it: “I have written for around sixty years always putting off the editing and publishing until one day. As a senior I know that if I don’t do it now I never will. All those notes and jottings must be completed. NOW.” Great sentiment Barbara – now is the perfect time! (Extra shout out to those who chose “now” as their word!)

REINVENT
The beginning of a new year can be a time for starting over, and many of the words had this kind of theme attached to them. For Marcia A, her choice had been all around her for some time: “I’ve been seeing it a lot, reading about it. I’m into Dr Joe Dispenza at the moment, fascinating person, mind blowing really. So to change old habits, old mindsets, you have to reinvent yourself. I like the sound of that. Becoming someone ‘new’.”

FUN
What a great word to hang to 2019’s hook! And for Fran C, she had a very simple reason: “Why did I choose FUN? It’s the single thing I want more of.” Who can argue with that astute logic?

HOPE
A very popular word, for a variety of reasons. For Christine M, she had many hopes including ones about health and this simple one which stood out: “I HOPE to put more laughter in my little corner of the world.“ Meanwhile, Paddy W hoped for “less stress, more joy” and Joan loves the word because it “embodies a cornucopia overflowing with positivity”. Final word on hope however goes to Michael S: “Hope makes it possible to dream. There is no equal to take its place.” Nicely put!

BREATHE
This word (also our feature picture!) bubbled to the surface a number of times, with Tammy R sharing that she plans “to take time for me, just time be me … back to the basics … just breathe!” For Belinda P, her trying 2018 was saved many times by “the ability to stop, BREATHE”. She explains further: “From work, to war, romance, illness and everything, breathing is what keeps us going.”

ME
Definitely the next most popular two-letter word behind “do”, it’s easy to see why ME makes sense for many of us who have spent years in services of others. As Shannon S puts it, “I’m not being selfish. It’s an attitude shift. I put Me at the back of the line a while ago letting Us and Them and Everyone Else move to the front. This year I will do the things for Me and move out of the mental fug of being overwhelmed all the time.” Robyn L also chose this word, years in the making, and is looking forward to “putting myself first in everything and re-establishing a life that is personally fulfilling”.

ADVENTURE
Many of us were looking forward to actual adventures here and overseas, while for others it was more of a literary journey – as Hannah A sums up: “This year will be a continuation of my adventure into the wonderful world of writing/editing and attempting to get my first book published or at the very least on the road to publication. There is so much for me to learn and I am looking forward to every minute of it.”

TRANSFORMATION
As we saw with ‘reinvent’, a new year is chance to become something else, and this word seemed to capture it best for many of those who replied. Ashlea C chose it for the following reason: “I feel like I have coasted along for the past couple of years and it’s time to step more out of my comfort zone. So this year, I really want to focus on my goals of becoming the person I want to be and take action towards living the life I want!”

CREATIVITY
We’re a creative bunch, including Claudia C who will be very busy come tax time it seems! “I chose it because it covers such a broad range of expression. Not only the arts, but crafts too. Also gardening, cooking and interior or exterior design. One can even be creative with one’s accounting! Ha ha!”

RISK
An interesting choice at first glance, but we love the courageous aspect to it and Johanna B seems to know where she’s going with it: “My ‘one word’ for 2019 is RISK – The kind that even if I fail in, is worth taking. I’ve realised that to keep growing in every area of my life, I need to keep taking action to move into unknown territories. So that’s my theme for this year – looking at every area of my life and seeing what kind of risk I can take to move forward and keep growing. As a writer this has meant, enrolling in two courses with you, talking to writers ahead of my journey and asking them for their mentoring.” It’s a great word Johanna (and yes, you had us at “enrolling”!). Here’s to positive risk-taking!

SIMPLIFY
The “new year declutter” is well in the swing of things – and the urge to simplify our lives seems more and more powerful. So it’s little wonder, theming 2019 with an eye on less being more would be a mantra many of you chose. As Genai R puts it, “I want less physical and mental clutter. More clear air, less waste. To take opportunities to be more efficient and try to avoid second guessing myself.” We hope you find it!

MORE
And just to prove that we are all on different paths, what could be more “yin” to the “yang” of “simplify” than MORE? Leanne L explains why she chose it: “I’ve always been a big fan of minimalism, but this year there’s just something in me that’s calling for a different approach – something that’s saying that it’s okay to ask for MORE, that it’s possible to be MORE, and that there’s so much MORE out there for me to experience and learn. So, this year I feel like I want to open up my life and MORE just seems to encompass where I’m heading.”

CREATING
Okay, this is similar to “creativity” from earlier, but we liked what Lynley H had to say: “Creating a word, a story, a way of being, a life. WRITING: serious writing, big writing, creative writing. I am creating that space for writing, making it a priority rather than merely fitting it in. The books, stories and poetry will be finished, and others started. I am creating.” We wish you all the best in your creating Lynley!

UKIYO
Definitely one of the more unique words we received, with Lex H having this to say: “The word I am defining 2019 with is ‘Ukiyo’ – a Japanese word that, literally translated, means ‘floating world’. In a sense, the word refers to detaching yourself from the worries of daily life and instead, living in the moment (something I’d very much like to do this year).” A wonderful word Lex – and wow, those Japanese have some great words don’t they?

CODDIWOMPLE
Another unusual selection – this from Suzie. “Saw this on my Facebook feed – it’s definitely my vibe for 2019. Lots of change and transformation!” Well, it definitely has a great vibe to it, and in truth, we suspect that most of our years may end up with a coddiwomplish tinge to them, Suzie!

LEARN
The nineteenth word is one very close to our hearts here at AWC. This is why Mali M chose it: “I spent most of 2018 being very unhappy in a job and stagnating on all levels as a result. Leaving that workplace in October was the best thing that could have happened as it reminded me that we are not stuck, and there is a whole world out there that exists beyond the stressed blinkers of where you are. I want to make sure that I’m recognising and embracing opportunities to learn in 2019, and gaining experience in all areas, whether it be work, education, life, family etc. And I feel if I am being true to myself, I’ll earn as an outtake of each experience. Financial would be great but I’m also happy with emotional lessons.” Such a great sentiment Mali – we never stop learning!

Thanks again to ALL who took the time to send us their words. And finally, as a sneaky bonus, Lindal J did apologise for sending us a phrase, not a single word – but we forgive her as it’s from the late Stephen Hawking and it mirrors our sentiments to you all:

“Be brave. Be curious. Be determined.”

Whatever words define your 2019, we hope it’s a successful one for you!

Source: writerscentre.com.au

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

Should You Keep Writing Even if It’s Not Fun Any More?

I mentioned in the Aliventures newsletter a couple of weeks ago that I finished NaNo on 23,000 words: not all that close to the 50,000 words I’d been aiming for!

So what happened? Several things: I had a bad cold, my kids were poorly, and we had a few unexpected little things go wrong. Some good stuff happened, too: I started volunteering one morning a week at my daughter’s school, and I picked up some more freelancing work.

All of this meant for less novel-writing time.

But one key thing that happened, perhaps more important than all the practical difficulties, was that I just wasn’t enjoying writing my novel.

Aiming for 50,000 words in a month was, frankly, unrealistic – and it was stressing me out!

On Sunday 11th November, for instance, I’d spent the day looking after the kids (Paul was out). I’d taken them to a birthday party, caught two trains home, given them tea, settled them into bed, and so on.

My five-year-old wanted me to stay outside her room while she fell asleep, so I sat on the floor with my laptop, trying to write a scene that just wasn’t coming together (and getting interrupted every three minutes by her wanting to ask for things).

This was possibly a new low in terms of “how badly can a writing session go”!

Maybe you’ve had similar times: times when you feel that you should write, but the fun’s gone out of it. When you feel overly pressured by a deadline, or when the project you’re working on has stopped being enjoyable.

Should Writing Be Fun?

There are plenty of types of writing that aren’t ever going to be “fun”, but that we do anyway. Maybe you have to write a lot of emails at work, for instance, or you’re a freelancer writing about topics that don’t particularly engage you.

In these situations, it may not matter that your writing isn’t much fun: you might be perfectly content to do it for the paycheck. And that’s fine! (Though if you hate the writing you’re doing, then it’s probably time to start thinking about a change of career or at least a change of clients.)

If you’re working on a novel, or a collection of poems, however, or you’re writing short stories for competitions – you aren’t necessarily ever going to see any money for your efforts. While there will almost certainly be tough times during your writing, you want – overall! – to be enjoying the process.

What You Can Do to Make Writing Fun Again

If you feel like the fun’s gone out of writing, you might want to:

#1: Take the Pressure Off

Are you rushing to meet an unrealistic deadline, like I was with NaNo? Some people find deadlines helpful and motivating – I’m one of them! – but trying to cram writing into an overpacked schedule isn’t much fun at all.

Fix it: Unless you really have to hit that deadline, could you push it back a bit? Even an extra couple of weeks might make all the difference to how you’re feeling.

#2: Consider Whether You’re Writing the Right Thing

Sometimes, if you feel that your writing is a chore or a bit pointless, it’s because there’s an issue with the thing you’re writing.

Maybe you’ve dashed forward with your novel without really thinking through the plot (which was part of my NaNo problem, too). Or maybe you’re plodding away with something even though you’ve lost interest in that particular idea.

Fix it: If you want to stick with your current project but it feels like it’s not coming together, sit down with a pen and notebook and do some brainstorming. What could you change? What new elements could you add in – or what could you take out?

#3: Give Yourself Permission to Write “Just For Fun”

How often do you write something purely for the sake of writing – to enjoy playing with words, creating characters, exploring an idea, or whatever it might be?

Probably not often!

When life’s busy, I want all my writing to be adding up to something productive, like a finished blog post, or another chapter of my novel. It can be really difficult to allow myself to simply enjoy writing: to focus on the journey itself, not the destination.

Fix it: Can you give yourself a little bit of time to just have fun with your writing – even if it’s just five or ten minutes once a week? You might want to use writing prompts to get you going (I like the “take three nouns” writing prompt generator).

#4: Quit a Project That Isn’t Working

Sometimes, you try something out and … it doesn’t work.

Maybe you started a blog full of enthusiasm, then lost interest after a few weeks or months. (I had two blogs before Aliventures, on two very different topics, and abandoned both years ago.)

Or maybe you began a novel, enjoyed writing the first few chapters, but have now realised it really isn’t going anywhere.

Fix it: It’s OK to quit. In fact, it’s good to quit things that have served their purpose in your life. Perhaps those first 10,000 words of your novel were a crucial writing experience that you needed to go through in order to write something new and better. Maybe that failed blog gave you the skills you need to start a new, successful one.

With any writing project, big or small, it’s normal to go through some difficult patches.

But, most of the time, your writing should be something that you enjoy: something you look forward to, rather than yet another chore you want to cross off your list as soon as possible.

How could you bring the fun back into your writing this week?

Source: aliventures.com

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Resources For Writers

I thought it would be helpful to create a resource page for all of your writing needs. All of these are tools that I use and recommend. They help me work more efficiently and share my writing with the world.

This page will evolve over time as I discover new resources so I’d recommend bookmarking it!

Please Note: Several of the links below are affiliate links which means I will earn a small commission if you buy the item at no extra cost to you. These small sales are how I keep the site up and running. Thanks for your support!

Blog Hosting

Every writer should have a blog. It’s one of the best ways to share your writing with a wider audience. Read my how-to guide on setting up a blog here.

WordPress is the most popular blogging platform. You can set up a free blog at WordPress.com, but if you’re serious about building a professional web presence and having full control of the website’s design, I recommend buying your own domain and a hosting package through a company like Hostgator.

Hostgator – This is an affordable hosting service when you’re first getting started. They offer easy WordPress installs and 24/7 tech support (both by phone & online chat). I’ve hosted several of my websites at HostGator.

WPX Hosting – My current hosting service for this website. Highly recommend them. I love how fast my website loads. 🙂 Their support is incredible, and they will quickly answer any WordPress questions you have (and fix any problems for you). Free SSL certificates, free security protection and support if your website ever gets hacked, and free website migrations.

Blog Design & WordPress Plugins

There are many free WordPress templates to choose from in the WordPress library and, if you’re brand new to creating websites and navigating the WordPress framework, you might just want to try your hand at customizing those.

However, if you want a professional looking website, I recommend investing in a premium theme. Premium themes come with excellent customer support and are far more secure than free templates.

Here are my two favorite theme libraries:

Elegant Themes – Elegant Themes has developed the Divi Theme, an incredibly versatile WordPress theme with a drag & drop page builder that makes it easier than ever to build beautiful websites. (They also have a plugin that lets you use their drag & drop builder with other WordPress themes. I use this on my websites to create sales pages and landing pages.)

Studio Press – Another fantastic provider of WordPress themes. These themes work on the Genesis Framework that is SEO optimized and has rock-solid security. This website is running on the Genesis framework.

Lifestyle Pro Theme – This is the Studio Press theme I am running on this blog.

WordPress Plugins & Website Tools

WordPress can be heavily customized with a special feature called plugins. Here are some of the plugins I recommend:

Akismet (free) – an anti-spam plugin that helps block spam comments.

Yoast SEO (free) – This plugin helps you optimize your content for search engines. I also love that it evaluates each post you write against the Flesch–Kincaid readability test.

Securi Security (free) – A plugin to strengthen your WordPress site’s security.

W3 Total Cache (free) – A plugin that will help you improve your site’s speed so it loads faster for visitors.

MailerLite (free) – Not a plugin. 🙂 This is the email marketing service I use to send my weekly email newsletter (subscribe here!). They’ve created a WordPress plugin so you can embed their email sign-up forms on your site.

I’ll continue to add more plugins & tools here!

Royalty Free Photos

Here are several free photo libraries you can use to find stock photos for your blog posts and other writing needs:

Pixabay – All images and videos on Pixabay are released free of copyrights under Creative Commons.

StockSnap.io – Another big library of high quality, free photos.

Unsplash – A slightly smaller website but an excellent free collection of stunning, high-resolution photos.

eBook & Graphic Design Tools

Canva (free) – Canva is a user-friendly graphic design software with a wide range of drag and drop templates. Excellent for designing an eBook or a social media graphic.

Writing and Editing Tools

Scrivener – A word-processing program for authors that is a must for organizing, structuring, composing, and formatting long documents. (I particularly recommend it if you are working on self-publishing a novel or eBook.)

Pro Writing Aid – An editing tool for professional authors who want to improve their manuscript before sending it to their editors.

Draftin (free) – An easy to use and distraction-free web-based writing interface.

Day One – A simple and elegant journaling app for Macbook and iPhone. It has helped me implement a daily journaling habit.

Evernote (free) – My go-to app for creating quick to-do lists, jotting down notes, and writing up blog post ideas.

Grammarly (free) – A proofreading tool that helps you spot grammatical errors, typos, and awkward sentences.

Hemingway Editor (free) – A web application that evaluates a piece of writing for clarity and simplicity.

Readability Score (free) – A web application that helps you improve your writing by measuring the readability of your text.

Cliche Finder (free) – The Cliche Finder highlights cliches in your text so you can avoid trite, overused expressions in your writing.

CoSchedule Headline Analyzer (free) – The CoSchedule headline analyzer app evaluates how well your blog post’s headline will rank in search engines. It also scores how effectively your headline will result in social shares and click-throughs.

Writing Productivity Tools

Todoist (free) – A task management web application that lets you create to-do lists with recurring dates and times. Use it to remind yourself of your daily writing goals.

Trello (free) –  A fantastic web application for organizing and planning writing projects and working collaboratively.

Marinara Timer (free) – A web-based productivity timer modeled after the Pomodoro technique.

You can find more free web apps for writers in my post here.

Books & Essays on Writing Well

The Elements of Style – This classic writing guide by William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White includes sections on grammar, commonly misused words and phrases, principles of composition when writing an essay, as well as stylistic techniques.

Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen  – This book will teach you how to market your work more effectively and write compelling copy for your website that connects with visitors. A must-read if you’re a copywriter.

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction – The title says it all. This is an invaluable guide for anyone who wants to sharpen their nonfiction writing and editing skills.

Storycraft – A must-read for any writer. Using examples from books and newspaper articles, journalist Jack Hart deconstructs how to tell a captivating story. He covers everything from how to develop characters to choosing point of view to bringing scenes to life.

The Memoir Project – An inspiring little guide by Marion Roach-Smith, a former staff writer at The New York Times, all about how to write what you know. This is a must-read for anyone interested in writing a memoir or a personal essay.

Story – One of my favorites! Robert McKee’s screenwriting workshops have earned him an international reputation, and in this book, he lays out everything that you need to know to write powerful stories. An in-depth and fascinating read.

The Story Grid – Shawn Coyne, an editor with 25+ years experience, shows you how to use the Story Grid layout to write a successful novel (or nonfiction book) by telling a compelling story. If you don’t want to purchase the book, you can find all of the information from the book along with free resources at the website Storygrid.com. Make sure to check out the podcast. It’s one of my favorites!

Creating Short Fiction –  Damon Knight shares clear, no-nonsense fiction writing advice on everything from structure to pacing to how to get ideas. There are also lots of excellent exercises to put that advice into practice.

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers – If you’re writing any kind of fiction, you need this book. Helpful for nonfiction as well.

Politics and the English Language – George Orwell’s classic essay on how to write well. Orwell’s essay on why he writes is also worth a read as a nice dose of inspiration: read it here.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s Nobel Lecture – A profound essay on the role of the writer in society and how we can change the world.

Mystery and Manners – A collection of insightful essays by Flannery O’Connor about the craft of writing and the unique mission of Christian writers.

A Moveable Feast – Ernest Hemingway’s memoir of his early years as a writer in the Paris of the 1920s. This book is a fascinating peek into the writing process of a famous author.

Source: nicolebianchi.com

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A Hook that Breaks the Rules

It’s a given in most writing circles that you should never open your novel with a scene in which little happens, especially if that scene involves a flashback.  This is normally good advice, but this morning’s passage is an example of when good advice should be ignored.

As always, it’s hard to be certain without reading the entire manuscript, but given that Tess is thinking about going back in time and changing history for the sake of her friend, it’s safe to guess this is what the story is about.  Decisions that momentous don’t drive subplots.  So even though the only action in this passage is that Tess lies in bed with her dog against her legs, has a flashback, and makes a decision, that decision is where the story starts.

This doesn’t mean the passage couldn’t be more effective.  The voice, for instance, is detached, with precise descriptions of Tess’s state of mind that don’t really convey how she feels – “cropped up in her?”  The language tends toward polysyllabic Latinate words – “canine contact was a prerequisite,” “infinitesimal possibility” – that makes even the interior monologue more formal than it should be.  As I’ve written before, paying attention to the roots of the words you use can transform the feel of your prose.

One thing I didn’t correct was the vagueness about the time-travel mechanism.  At this point, the key elements of the scene are all emotional – Jobe’s longstanding horror and grief, Tess’s compassion and fear.  Going into detail about just what’s in the closet at the Java Jack’s would distract.  I think readers are willing to let time travel remain a mystery for the moment.

The most important rule of writing is that there are no rules.  But when you need to go against what is normally good advice – no flashbacks in hooks, open with action – then you have to get everything else right.  If your opening relies on powerful emotions rather than dramatic events to draw readers in, then you need to use every tool at your disposal to make those emotions as clear and compelling as possible.

 

 

The smell of the rain wafted in on the breeze and Brumus, who was draped across lying against Tess’s [1] midsection side, kicked as he snored, chasing some squirrel that had the nerve to scamper through his dream.

[paragraph added] Tess was already awake.  Had been lying there in the dark for what seemed like hours.  Normally, such canine contact was a prerequisite for Tess to sleep soundly. But not on this night. Despite Brumus’s contributions, she was not sleeping soundly at the moment, nor had she for the previous ninety minutes, since she and her burly dog first climbed into bed. Her disquiet was a result of being [2] It was hard to sleep when you were torn between longing and guilt., both of which cropped up in her after the demonstration she’d seen of the awesome power that resided

[paragraph added] That . . . thing in the closet at Java Jack’s. This thing in the closet, w Whatever it was, wherever it came from, it offered the power to change her past., a And thus … her present, and her future. She could go back in time and make everything with Gil work out. She imagined herself as the wife of a professional athlete, living in some obscenely lavish home. [3]that was protected from the regular people by gates, be they iron gates or economic gates. This longing for the good life triggered a trace of guilt, but the lion’s share of the guilt that gnawed at her like a shark feeding on the bloated corpse of a dead whale, [4]was about something bigger. She could justify the desire to be a member of high society as something that was a fairly common human failing, what she could not abide, was her mind’s insistence on thinking about what this power could do for her while poor Mr. Jobe walked around town every day with that lingering horror haunting his consciousness.

[paragraph added] But she couldn’t.  How could she change history just to make her own life more comfortable?

But doing it for Jobe . . .

Despite the age chasm of difference between their ages, for some reason, she and Jobe had connected from the very beginning. She was one of the few people in town who treated him with dignity. Most people could only see the former mental patient wandering the street and either avoided him or ridiculed him. Of course, neither his time spent in a mental facility, nor his penchant for having conversations with himself, or … whomever he thought he was talking to, did much to help discourage such mistreatment.  She had actually talked to him, over coffee and danish, and heard his story.

And that’s what kept her Tonight tosseding and turneding — well, as much as she could was possible with an eighty-six-pound pit bull sleeping on against her waist. Every time she tried to close her eyes, she saw the faces of Jobe’s wife and two dead children in the, photographs of whom she’d seen hunted up in the library, in newspaper accounts of

[paragraph added] She’d been alive when the massacre. The murders happened, though when she was very too young to remember.  , and so she hadn’t seen the original media coverage. But in one particularly dark afternoon, over mugs of Peruvian at Java Jack’s, deep conversation with Jobe had, he’d opened up to her about what it had been like for him.   and told her what happened that night. That conversation was what piqued her interest and led her to the library to find out more. Though they filled in many of the details, it turned out that the newspaper accounts paled in comparison to what Nathan [5] told her on the night that the two of them stayed after she closed Java Jack’s and talked over Peruvian coffee deep into the night. 

It was in dead of night on the early morning hours of Saturday, June 6, 1987., Jobe explained. He had come home at the end of his five to two shift to find the side door of his little three bedroom working class bungalow ajar. He would later recall remember that a little the very last vestiges of driveway dust still lingered in the air, and w. When he got out of the car, he noticed rocks from the driveway on the lawn.

“I was meticulous about my lawn,” he told Tesssaid in his a quiet, raspy voice. as he wiped away a tear,tThose rocks didn’t belong … just didn’t belong.”

The police later connected the dust and, the rocks,. he’d connected the dots immediately. Someone, he determined, had just pulled away, and fast.

[paragraph added]  At the time, he went inside, the open side door frighening him.  And His eyes went to the house and the instant he saw the door ajar, his stomach clenched. Despite something in him crying out, begging him not to go inside, he did. Iin the ensuing decadesthirty-seven years, he’d been trying to un-see what he saw thereinside.  [6]

[paragraph added]  The living room front of the house was undisturbed and quiet, eerily quiet. If not for the open door, and the coppery smell, and the imaginary pliers twisting his stomach from the inside, there would have been no sign that anything was amiss.

But as he moved down the hall and his eyes adjusted to the darkness, the blood came into focus. Five crimson streaks ran down the wall, from one bedroom to the next to the next.

          As Nathan told his story, the chill scuttled up Tess’s body like an unholy clutch of frigid tarantulas, out of the center circle of Dante’s Hell.

Dear God, she thought as he recounted the scene. She was right there in that hall with him. [7]

The blood, aAll that blood,.” he said as if He forced the words out as if they were made of sandpaper, he gulped hard, and went on with the story.

Brett’s room was the first on the right., h  He was lying in his bed, the one with the Cincinnati Reds bedspread,. it was tThe same shade of red as the warm blood, splashed onto the headboard and wall, and pooled around Brett’s head. The boy’s His eyes were wide open. and fixed on the ceiling. The yawning, jagged gash across the eleven-year old’s [8] So was his neck was, down to the bone. It might have been called ‘ear to ear’ had the boy’s his son’ts right ear still been there. That however, had been cleanly severed.

[paragraph added]  Jobe retched, and with tears pouring down his face, started calling out for his wife and his younger son as he staggered from Brett’s room.  [paragraph removed] “Vera! Vera! Brady! Vera say something,!” he begged as he staggered further down the hall, leaning against the bloody wall.

            But no one answered. Jobe fell into eEight-year-old Brady’s room was next. Brady was a grisly little duplicate of Brett, from the wide open vacant eyes, to the gaping throat wound, all the way down to his missing little right ear. Except that Brady The child’s body twitched a twitch that had nothing to do with life. It was just a result of a final random nerve signal, [9]

[paragraph added]  Jobe’s stomach rebelledbucked, and surrendered its contents upward. Despite his best efforts to turn his head, it splashed onto the bed.  And Brady. … and his dead son.

[paragraph added]  He lurched stumbled from the room on liquid knees and leaned against the door jamb with his cheek pressed to the wall outside Brady’s room. Between what the things he’d just seen, the smell of his own vomit, and the heinous stench coming from the bedroom he’d shared with Vera, he was having trouble staying conscioushis head spun and his stomach threatened to erupt again. The very last thing he wanted to do, was to go into that last bedroom. But he clung to the hopeThough he knew that some last abomination waited for him, the infinitesimal possibility that Vera might still be alive demanded that he continue.

Vera was in the master bedroom at the end of the hall and she was on the floor. She’d apparently heard something in the night that made her get up and put on her robe. The monster had met her just inside the bedroom door.

[paragraph added]  The smell in this room was stronger, so strong that it made Nathan’s eyes burn. His wife lay on her back, arms and legs splayed wide apart. Her robe was spread open beneath her, her nightgown was pulled up, and her panties were pulled down. The number and ferocity of the stab wounds that littered her chest and abdomen was so profound that, later that morning, the sight made the coroner, who had several years experience [9] retch and sprint from the room when she saw them. Vera no longer had her right ear either.

[paragraph added] Those were the These images that never left comprised the ghastly graffiti that was indelibly imprinted on every wall, in every room, inside the mind of Nathan Jobe‘s mind.

[paragraph added] Or Tess’s, now.

I can’t blame you for losing your grip on sanity! Tess thought with her hand trembling and coffee spilling from her mug, as she listened to Nathan that night.

And now, tossing and turning in bed, sShe closed her eyes, reached down, and scratched Brumus on his head. [italics removed] [10] Jesus! She couldn’t live with the images for more than a few days, and Jobe had lived with them for decades.  [italics removed] How the Hell does did he ever find any peace?

Well, she knew a way.  And sShe knew what she had to do.

 

NOTES:

1.  I couldn’t picture the dog sleeping comfortable draped across her midsection.  I thought leaning against her side was easier to picture and less problematic.

2. Note that you’re describing her from the outside, clinically, with little emotional distance.  Describe her using the words she would use at the time.  Also, keep the interior monologue in her voice.

3.  Why does the thought of living the good life trigger guilt in her?

4.  If she’s lying awake in the middle of the night, would she invest the effort in coming up with the labored whale metaphor?  Keep it simple and let her thoughts flow.

5.  I wasn’t sure at first how Nathan and Jobe were related.  If she thinks of him as Jobe, she should do so throughout.  People don’t usually change the way they address someone in their heads.  At the end, you could get away with her addressing him as “Nathan Jobe” because she’s thinking of him in a more formal sense.  The bit of extra formality is actually a sign she’s made her decision.

6.  I normally recommend against breaking the moment — if you’re in a flashback, stay there until you’re done.  But the emotional center of this scene lies with Tess and her understanding of Jobe’s grief.  Pulling back to show her understanding of what your narrating is appropriate.

7.  But here, breaking through with Tess’s commentary actually undermines the moment.  Given what you’re describing, your readers will feel what Tess felt without her having to comment on it.  And that emotional connection will bring them closer to her.  Besides, that tarantula metaphor is pretty strained.

8.  This moment will have more impact if you keep the language simple.  Let the events speak for themselves.

9.  The mention of random nerve signals is far too clinical.

10.  You don’t need either italics or thinker attributions (“she thought”) for your interior monologue.  Keep it in third person, past tense, and your readers will know who is thinking.

I’d love your take on the passage.  And on the whole idea of breaking the rules and whether or not there should be rules in the first place.

And also, Happy Holidays, and I’ll see you all next year.

By Dave King

Source: writerunboxed.com

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Writing a Mystery: Do Your Research Right

When writing procedural fiction, research is the hot, molten core that determines how good your story is going to be. This is especially true when it comes to writing a mystery, where your story depends on thrilling twists, on-point procedure, and accurate finer points, ranging from how a firearm should act to what happens to a human body after death.

It takes a lot of research to get procedural fiction right, but it doesn’t have to be a complete mystery. Here’s how to approach intensive research for your mystery fiction novel or short story by jumping right into the deep end.

Learning Procedure

Successful mystery fiction relies on understanding proper and legal police procedure. If a real detective can read your novel and not find a single error in procedure, you’ve done your job well – and you’d be surprised at just how many detectives and police officers read detective, mystery, and police fiction during their break.

Procedure means things like how suspects will be arrested, how they will be charged, how evidence is collected and processed – and this is all vital information to get right from the beginning.

Let’s not forget about consistency with internal procedure. For example, a wayward cop wouldn’t be able to shoot their way through a chapter like in a Bruce Willis flick and face no consequences from victims or their superiors.

Procedure is different in every country, and sometimes even in every state. If you’re writing about a specific area, it’ll have a specific police station connected to it – and it’s especially important to get your facts straight.

Get in touch with the police station you’re writing about and find out if they would be happy to accompany you through a walk-around of the station: Most are happy to do this, and it gives you a basic framework to go with.

Know where to draw the line when making fiction reflect real life. Your fictional officers can’t correspond to anyone actually working at the station.

If you don’t know something about procedure, there are 3 ways to get the information:

  • Search it online first.
    Search engines are a huge pit of information – though, keep in mind that not all of it is correct. Still, you can find a lot of information just by searching the right keywords. Use authoritative and official sources at all times.
  • Look it up in a book.
    You’ll build up a good collection of textbooks as a crime writer – and you’ll have a great excuse for the weird library you keep at the same time. For facts you don’t know, sometimes it’s a big help to consult a textbook – though make sure the one you’re consulting is the one currently being used by professionals working the beat.
  • Ask a professional.
    The best way to confirm a fact is to ask someone in the career or industry you’re writing in – and this applies as much to fiction writers as it does to journalists. Have a list of resources you can call up in the event of questions like this. Eventually you’ll build up a good relationship with your sources.

Technically, the fourth way is knowing procedure from the inside – but most writers haven’t worked in a legal or law enforcement career, nor have they ever been arrested.

Researching and Shadowing Real-Life Professionals

When writing a mystery, the value of shadowing a real-life professional is absolute gold.

Here, you’ll see and experience things that you wouldn’t come across anywhere else – and you surely won’t find this kind of information online. It’s living, breathing experience – and you’d be surprised at how many professionals are happy with a visit to their work environment from a writer taking notes.

Send an e-mail with some background on your story, and you might be surprised when you’re able to see the inside of it all. Listen to the person in charge, keep your eyes open, and stay out of the line of fire. Oh, and wear a ballistic jacket. (Before you laugh, I wasn’t kidding about that one – and that’s from experience.)

If and when this is not possible, the internet remains a wonderful resource: There are many case files, as well as case information and weird documented crimes that you can read through to form a background and find out facts.

Getting Rank Right

Every country lists ranks and positions differently – and every rank has a different role when a crime or investigation is involved. Don’t guess, and hold off on any rank puns like “Sergeant Pepper” or “General Knowledge.”

Here are some suggestions for where to look up the world’s common police ranks:

Write Laws Right

Procedure and rank aren’t the only things you have to think about when writing a mystery. Criminal law (and sometimes other laws) will also be a huge part of your writing – so make a list of resources and legal experts who don’t mind answering random questions from writers. There are many out there.

Keep in mind that federal and state laws might differ in certain countries. Again, ask a legal expert such as a lawyer or law professor when you aren’t sure how something would be handled in real-life.

It’s advised that you familiarize yourself with any relevant laws as a crime writer, too – so stock up on law books and resources and keep them nearby, especially the country’s relevant criminal act.

Here are a few as a starting guideline:

Gruesome Facts

Life’s gruesome facts matter when you’re writing mystery fiction. For example, the way things would decompose under certain circumstances – or just what kind of sound a knife makes going into a human body. (Clue: “Thud” or “Thwack,” depending on the knife.)

For these, don’t guess, and don’t rely on what you’ve seen in other fiction. That’s the easy way out. Swallow your pride and go ask an expert (which will usually fall in the realm of a doctor, nurse or forensic pathologist in this case) to make sure you get it right.

They can give you the answer to a lot of theoretical situations for your character, too – but make sure you clarify why you’re asking this, and give your sources some background on your writing career: Otherwise, they might think you’re nuts and put in a call to the police themselves.

More practical research can also be called for: Sometimes you’ll have to get your hands dirty and take a raw Sunday roast to a shooting range, but that’s half the fun – as long as you aren’t breaking any laws.

Writing a Mystery: Further Reading

Remember those textbooks we mentioned earlier? Sure, it looks the same as a serial killer’s Kindle, but you get to say that it’s for research. Here are six excellent ones to get your collection started:

Thorough outlining and research is all that it takes to remove the mystery out of writing mystery fiction. Crime can pay when you’re a crime writer – now go out there and create your fictional sleuth!

Source: refiction.com

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Want to Improve Your Writing? Change Your Thinking

A mental shift in how we think about our writing and process can change our perspective, and thus, help us see the things we’ve been missing.

A long time ago, when I was still fairly new to writing, I had my mind blown by a simple “change of perspective” in how I looked at writing. It was a light-bub moment that finally made me understand something I’d been struggling with at that time—point of view.

In the years that followed, I’ve had plenty moments where changing how I viewed or thought about something writing-related helped me understand it, or use it better. As I’ve spoken with other writers, I’ve seen the same lights go on in their eyes as they looked at something they’d struggled with and finally saw things click into place.

There’s a reason there is so much writing advice out there, from so many different people, and so many different approaches to essentially the same stuff. We all learn a little differently, and a technique or theory that works for one writer might fail miserably for another.

My own theory—if you’re struggling with something, come at it from a different direction and see if it helps. For example:

My struggle with point of view? I got past it because of a simple comment in a critique. In a scene where my protagonist sees a rowboat, my critique partner wrote:

“You used “the rowboat” here, which suggests she knew the rowboat was there and was looking for it. Did you mean “a rowboat,” which would suggest it was new information to her? It seems like she didn’t know it was there.”

This comment made me realize that it’s not about what the authors knows is there, but what the character knows is there, which is the essence of point of view—what information is known. I went from thinking description was about telling readers what was in a scene to showing readers what the POV-character saw. And my scenes got better overnight.

(Here’s more on understanding point of view)

Another light-bulb moment came when I mentally separated “editing” and “revising.” These words are used interchangeably all the time, and do mean basically the same thing, but for me, editing became what I did when I worked on changing specific words in the text. Revising became what I did when I worked on changing the overall plot and story.

Changing how I viewed these two words made a world of difference, because it changed how I approached the revision process as a whole. I used to get caught up with tweaking the text before I’d finished making sure the plot and story were sound. I’d polish text and end up cutting it, or worse—feel it was “done” and not cut or change it when it needed it.

Looking at edit and revise as two separate activities allowed me to focus on the part that needed to be done and ignore the rest. I didn’t worry about the text because I was revising, not editing. I focused on the text when I was editing and done revising. I no longer made every chapter “perfect” before moving on, because I didn’t need to edit until my revision was done. It streamlined my entire post-first draft process.

(Here’s more on the difference between editing and revising)

One last example made writing a scene much easier. I’d found myself thinking “What happens in this scene” versus “What are the characters trying to do in this scene?” This was inadvertently making me write scenes that lacked conflict and uncertainty, because they weren’t about a character trying to achieve a goal, but how my protagonist achieved that goal. It left no room for readers to wonder what might happen next, because everything was so obvious.

Once I shifted my thinking, my scenes got much stronger. My characters fought for their goals, my bad guys tried harder to stop them, and it opened me up to consider other possibilities in the scene that weren’t part of my outline. It let me think, “What did the characters do and how did those actions affect what others did?” Plotting became organic and natural instead of a series of described situations.

(Here’s more on looking at a scene from the bad guys’ perspective)

There’s an ebb and flow to writing, and we all have periods where we get stuck—either in a scene or in our own growth as a writer. When that happens, take a step back and think about why.

  • Have you ignored advice because you didn’t think it would work for you—even though you never tried it?
  • Are you fighting your natural process—outlining when you should be pantsing, pantsing when you should be outlining?
  • Are you trying to follow a “writing rule” too closely that may not apply to what you want to do—or could be wrong for your story or writing style?
  • Are you focused too much on the rules of writing and not enough on the process of storytelling?
  • Do you just need to try a different approach and seek out different opinions on the process or technique?

Writing is fluid, and that fluidity applies to our processes as well. Every writer is different, so it makes sense that how we write, and what helps us understand our writing, is going to change and evolve as we do. Everything we learn builds a stronger foundation under us and allows us to see writing in a new light. The more open we are to those changes, the more we grow as writers.

Looking at your writing from a new perspective can help you improve your writing and get past a sticking point—in both your skill set and your story. Don’t be afraid to try new things or adjust your thinking about old ideas or processes. You never know where those light-bulb moments will come from.

Where have some of your light-bulb moments come from? Has changing your thinking about an aspect of writing helped you?

By Janice Hardy
Source: blog.janicehardy.com

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